STAGS SQUAD SET TO BE STRETCHED TO LIMIT
STAGS SQUAD SET TO BE STRETCHED TO LIMIT
MANSFIELD Town's small squad will be stretched to the limit after this weekend when five players will be suspended at once.
Jamie Clarke (three games) and Luke Dimech (one game) will be already be missing when fourth-placed Stags travel to Leyton Orient this Saturday (3pm) following last week's red cards.
And, amazingly, Liam Lawrence, Lee Williamson, Tom Curtis and Bobby Hassell all picked up their fifth bookings of the season in Saturday's 1-0 home win over Kidderminster Harriers and will all now be suspended for the same game, along with Clarke.
"It's not something that has crept up one me, I was aware of the possible situation," said manager Keith Curle.
"This will be where we have to reply on the depth of our squad. We have players here whose first team chances have been limited and maybe this is their chance to come in and give a good account of themselves."
Of the four costly bookings on Saturday, two were for dissent, one for a foul and one for deliberate handball.
"If players get themselves booked without a valid reason then they need to be asking questions of themselves," added Curle.
He wouldn't rule out the possibility of a new face being drafted in and he and all his backroom staff will be out taking in games this week.
It is hard to say which game the five will miss right now. Stags are due to host Southend United on Saturday, 24th January which will still stand if the Shrimpers are knocked out of the FA Cup in the replay due to take place at Scarborough tonight (Wednesday).
Stags have also pencilled in the outstanding trip to Scunthorpe United for Tuesday, 27th January. But, if Stags and Scunthorpe, who also faced a replay against Barnsley last night, are both free, the game could be switched to Saturday, 24th (NOTE THIS IS INCORRECT - IT WILL BE THE 27TH).
Whichever the eventual date, admission prices at Scunthorpe will be £14 adults/students and £8 U16s and OAPs.
Curle is likely to be boosted by the return from injury of both Tony Vaughan and Neil MacKenzie for Saturday's trip to Orient.
And fit-again Dave Artell will be back at the heart of defence in place of the suspended Dimech.
Also back with the squad is highly promising youngster Alex John-Baptiste after a successful loan spell at Tamworth.
The home side will be smarting after taking a 5-0 pasting at Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.
Since Paul Brush' dismissal three months ago they have been managed by Martin Ling, who played three games on loan for Stags in the 1990/91 season.
But the Os have hardly been pulling up any trees at their Matchroom Stadium this season, winning five and drawing five of their 13 games there.
""Doubtless they will feel they have a point to prove after Saturday," said Curle.
"It's up to us in the first couple of minutes to set the trend for the afternoon."
Stags will be looking to extend their unbeaten League run to five games, having won three of their previous four games by a 1-0 margin.
And, even though no one would claim Saturday's largely uneventful 1-0 win over Kidderminster saw Stags at their best, it was still hard to fathom why a minority saw fit to boo the victory at the end.
"We've won three and drawn one of four League games," said Curle. "I don't see that as a dip in form.
"I know how anxious our fans are to see us back in the Second Division and perhaps it's testament to the high standards we've set ourselves earlier in the season.
"In our first game of the season at Kidderminster our performance level was supeb but we were left disappointed by the result.
"On Saturday, the performance levels could have been better but we were delighted with the result. We are in the business of winning football matches and, at this time of the season, if you look at the papers there are a lot of 1-0 wins.
"Kidderminster came here with one striker and planned to quieten our crowd and make them despondent.
"But our fans have to learn to stick with us. Kevin Pilkington's penalty save was the kickstart we needed and we upped a gear straight away. That lifted the crowd as well and we got the goal.
"It wasn't the most exciting of matches but we got the result we deserved and we are in a results business."
Latest | January 2004